American Booksellers Association

Putting E-Commerce in the Hands of America’s Independent Booksellers

Open book

The American Booksellers Association (ABA) is a non-profit trade association whose mission is to help independently owned bookstores grow their businesses and thrive in their local economies. With the rise of e-books and the market dominance of Amazon, booksellers have increasingly found their industry and livelihood threatened, and are always looking for new ways to compete—a cause the ABA takes to heart.

The ABA provides many services to its constituent booksellers, but one of the most valuable is the e-commerce platform IndieCommerce, which allows bookstores to offer and sell their inventory online via pre-built e-commerce websites. The service provides measurable economic benefit for these bookstores and allows them to expand the reach of their customer base online. Often, the booksellers specialize in rare or first edition prints of sought-after books, an underserved online market that they are uniquely positioned to reach.

Unfortunately, when Lullabot first met the ABA, IndieCommerce had been in operation for several years and showed its age, with out-of-date editorial tools and lackluster performance. The platform, serving over 300 booksellers, was also sorely in need of an upgrade to Drupal 7.

The complexity of an e-commerce migration of this scale is no simple undertaking, especially when ABA, like most non-profits, faced a shortage of internal resources and time. Further, IndieCommerce members couldn’t afford long periods of downtime or a complete overhaul of tools they’d grown to rely upon.

When ABA approached Lullabot for help pulling off this massive migration and upgrade, Lullabot first enlisted the expertise of senior Drupal architect Greg Dunlap to analyze IndieCommerce and formulate a minimal-downtime plan for the project. After a couple of months learning ABA’s technology stack and operations, Lullabot assembled a full development team, and took on the painstaking work of building and migrating the sites to Drupal 7.

Along the way, Lullabot worked closely with ABA to rethink their hosting infrastructure, improve performance, and refresh the editorial backend that was so critical to constituent booksellers. As a way to ease the operational transition to ABA, Lullabot brought ABA developers into the project and split responsibilities with them. The end result was a cohesive team where everyone knew the architecture and roadmap.

These days, the role of IndieCommerce remains as important as ever for independent booksellers nationwide. After the successful IndieCommerce launch, Lullabot continued to advise on several critical digital strategy initiatives, especially those relating to ABA’s family of websites and how to successfully monetize their digital channels.